Buying or Starting a Business.

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Small business mistakes

Mistakes that Turn Your Dream Into a Nightmare.

Will your new business sink or swim? New businesses have a horrible death rate. There are certain start up mistakes when you buy or open a business than can be fatal to success.

Among the very worst start up mistakes when you buy or open a business are under capitalization, inexperience, and paying too much for an existing business.

start up mistakes when you buy or open a business

Inadequate capitalization means that you don’t start out with enough money. It is a classic cause of business failure. Especially in new businesses. Here’s why. Start up costs frequently exceed your most liberal projections. The maze of business regulations and the necessary building and safety permits are a nightmare. The more you didn’t know about, the longer it takes to get your doors open. Meanwhile, you are paying rent for business space that you can’t use.

Don’t rush into any transaction without a great deal of investigation with the assistance of a CPA and a lawyer.

Many people get badly screwed when they buy a business. Your life savings is at risk.

People will often put more time and effort into buying a used car than they put into buying a million dollar business.

Here is one big tip: Many business sellers will defraud you about the profitability of the business income. It’s an old scam.

Here is how they do it. The seller of a retail business such as a restaurant claims he has two sets of books. Here is the bait: The seller tells you there is significant cash income that goes unreported. If you don’t mind a little cheating on your taxes, your ears perk up! The unreported income is not on the books, naturally.

But the seller is asking for a price based on the “unreported” income. If you are a buyer, don’t walk away from that deal. Run from it. Run as fast as you can.

Surprise! You’ve been had, and royally screwed, and nothing you can do about it.

After you take over that business, you find that the big cash income was a all a lie. You are screwed, and you paid way too much for what was probably a failing business. There’s not much you can do about it.

You can’t very well sue because there is no proof of the lies. The “double set of books” never existed and naturally never mentioned in the sales agreement. And there are no witnesses. If you try to sue the for fraud, what are you going to say in court? “He cheated me because I relied on his false representations about how much tax cheating I would get away with?” Of course not. That won’t work and you will be laughed out of court. You can’t get anywhere with a story like that.

Opening a business – Anatomy of a sad restaurant failure.

Small business mistakesHere’s a case in point, concerning restaurant failures. I have a friend who owned a small family style Los Angeles restaurant. After a number of years, his lease expired. The landlord would not renew it without a huge rent increase.  

My friend decided to move. He leased space in a shopping center. The space he took had never been a restaurant. He was an experienced
restaurant operator, or so he thought. But many new building codes and regulations had taken effect since the last time he opened a restaurant.

Everything at his original restaurant had been “grandfathered” in because he bought it as a going concern. But the new space was a raw build out. Nothing was “grandfathered.”

He was shocked to find some expensive things he never knew. First, his new space required expensive plumbing modifications he was unfamiliar with. That cost an extra $25,000.  

Then there were ADA disabled persons compliance and other improvements that he had not expected. That made the cost of bathroom remodeling jump by $20,000.

He ran out of money before he ever got the doors open. And, all the extra time caused by the delays meant his doors stayed closed much longer than he expected. Also, he had investors, “silent partners” who trusted him. The investors were were a group of loyal customers from the old location who believed in him and agreed to back him.

Needless to say, the silent partners were furious over the mistakes and mismanagement.  But he finally got it open. To do so he used up every last cent of his own available credit. Even his kid’s college savings account got tapped to buy last minute supplies. Finally, he was open, but had no cash left.

His business debts piled up beginning the day he opened. Suppliers were never paid on time.  Then they cut off his credit and put him on COD. Even sales taxes and payroll taxes were ignored. He stopped paying rent. There just was no money.

The financial strains ruined his marriage. His wife left and filed for divorce. He was sued by the landlord for back rent. Naturally, the restaurant got shut down.

So, you want to buy a business? Here’s a few things you better know. 

small business mistakesExperience counts. You are asking for trouble if you start or buy a business without significant experience. If you buy a business, don’t assume that the old owner can teach you everything there is to know.

Many business sellers will actually lie to you about their business income. It’s an old scam. The seller of a retail business, such as a restaurant or retail store whispers into your ear that he has two sets of books. The seller tells you there is significant cash income that goes unreported. Naturally, the unreported income is not on the books. But the seller is asking a price based on the “unreported” income.

If you are a buyer, don’t walk away from that deal. Run from it. Run as fast as you can. Ordinarily, the buyer will have legal recourse against a seller who commits fraud by overstating the income.  But if you are that buyer, are you REALLY going to sue because they buyer misrepresented the amount of taxes that you can evade? Your lawsuit won’t go very far.

What to do if your business is already in trouble.

Bankruptcy may save a small business on the verge of closing. Even if the business can’t be salvaged, personal bankruptcy may give you a fresh start to get you back on your feet. You won’t go very far in life saddled with old debts. Bankruptcy can sometimes allow a small business to eliminate debts. It can also allow a business to reschedule secured debts and delinquent taxes. Most bankruptcy lawyers will give you a free consultation. Do your homework. Find one or more lawyers to consult who have many years of experience. The accompanying short video lets you hear the normal questions and answers that usually are discussed during an initial bankruptcy consultation. The video features Jeffrey Wishman, a Los Angeles bankruptcy lawyer with 33 years of experience.

Spotlight: Worst small business mistakes include under capitalization, inexperience, and paying too much for an existing business. Anatomy of a restaurant failure.